Choosing a pair of decent headphones is a minefield at the best of times.
For those that prefer the in-ear variety, finding an agreeable pair can prove extremely frustrating, with the inability, due to hygiene, to be able to test before purchase often resulting in disappointment.
While there are certain indicators to quality — manufacturer, online reviews etc — headphones are such a personal experience that there is no alternative but to take a (measured) leap of faith.
CX 3.00 headphones
Sennheiser is one of a handful of firms with a reputation for excellence in this area and its CX 3.00 product is the latest in a long line of noise-blocking ear canal 'phones.
The CX 3.00s are available in three colours - black, white and red. The pair under review here had a red cable, not that this makes any difference other than cosmetic.
The headphones come with four pairs of earbuds — to accommodate different ear sizes, of course — and a small square box to store these earbuds in and wrap the cable around. I had no trouble finding the correct fit as the buds already in place were the correct size.
The noise-blocking element worked well and sound isolation was easily achieved. However, I found the bass a little overbearing with the result that it muffled the music.
This aside, the sound quality was very good indeed, particularly when not on the move. I’ve always found noise-cancelling headphones disappointing to use when walking around. The sound isolation means that for every footstep taken, a thud overshadows the music being played.
But when seated or stood still, the CX 3.00s deliver a quality sound. Despite the aforementioned heavy bass, they also offer a crisp mid-range and an enveloping sound.
The cable is sturdy yet on the thin side, meaning it is less likely to get tangled, while the jack plug also has a solid build.
The CX 3.00s come recommended for daily use, particularly if you need a pair of headphones for when not on the move. They may not be the best sounding out there, but, at £45, they are certainly worth considering.
At £200, Sennheiser's CXC 700 headphones (right) are substantially more expensive.
Whereas the CX 3.00s are noise-blocking in-ear headphones, the CXC 700s are noise-cancelling. This might sound like pretty much the same thing, and it is to an extent, but a quick listen to the CXC 700s and you can tell the difference.
The black/grey earbuds and cord come with a (bulky) battery housing that is located halfway down the wire. It contains a single AAA battery that lasts for "up to 16 hours".
This box allows you to control the volume and noise cancellation, but unfortunately doesn't double as a remote control. Also, its sheer size makes it a bit of an irritant, although with a clip on the back and a lengthy cord, you can easily attach it to your clothing.
There are three noise-cancelling modes - the first is optimised for commuting on transport, the second for flights and air-conditioned rooms, and the third for "on-the-go use, in crowded environments or other loud surroundings".
These can be selected using a button on the box. Another button activates the "TalkThrough" function, which mutes the audio so that you can hear external sounds - handy if you want to talk to cabin crew, for instance, without the need to remove the ear buds.
Noise-cancelling is very effective on the CXC 700s although, truth be told, I couldn't make out much difference when using the three different modes while travelling on the Tube and flying on a short-haul flight. However, they do block out most external noise.
Sound quality is strong, particularly in the lower end, although the treble could occasionally be a little overbearing. That's nitpicking though, as the various genres of music I played through the CXC 700s were all detailed and warm.
They come with a small carry case, a 6.3mm adaptor, an airplane adaptor and three pairs of earbuds.
The CXC 700s offer quality audio whether noise-cancelling is switched on or off. However, they are expensive and the large battery box is unattractive. If this doesn't bother you, proceed with confidence.
PRICE CX 3.00 - £44.99; CXC 700 - £199.99